Lymphoedema is a condition causing chronic swelling (oedema) which occurs due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the body’s tissues.
The lymphatic system is the body’s defence against infection.
The development of lymphoedema occurs over a prolonged and indefinite period of time due to a breakdown or blockage of the lymphatics regardless of the process or trigger. These triggers are many and varied and include genetic disorders, blockages due to trauma or injury, cancer, surgical intervention, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, arthritic inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, deep vein thrombosis, venous leg ulcers and others.
Other people get lymphoedema for no apparent reason.
Signs and Symptoms
The onset of lymphoedema is usually an unexplained, slow and usually painless swelling, which may be indented by pressure (pitting). As the swelling increases, discomfort and heaviness can lead to increased immobility. This can lead to attacks of infection known as cellulitis. With further increase in swelling the limb may also become painful, hard and resistant to pressure (fibrosis).
The limb that becomes severely swollen can affect a person’s quality of life.
Lymphoedema can be managed, and the earlier it is diagnosed, assessed and treated the better the outcome.
The most common form of intensive lymphoedema treatment to enable fast reduction of associated swelling is known as Complex Lymphatic Therapy (CLT) and is by a combination of some or all of the following:
- Specialised lymphatic drainage massage
- Compression bandaging
- Decongestive exercises
- Skin care